We all knew that this point in "Dancing With the Stars" All-Star Season 15 was coming -- the point where the last of the would-be dancers were cut, and now the better dancers would be eliminated in the thinning of the herd in time for the finals.
Kirstie Alley, who has hung on for several weeks past her expiration date, ran out of luck Tuesday night when she and partner Maks Chmerkovskiy were eliminated. I'm sure it wasn't much of a surprise, considering that the pair were 20 points behind and at the bottom of the leaderboard. Both Kirstie and Maks had "it's been great but it's over" expressions on their faces as host Tom Bergeron tried to make the announcement suspenseful.
"The second time around was very special to me. To do it once was one thing, but to be asked to come back was an honor," said Kirstie. "I learned more about dancing ... really. I just love dancing. I want to thank Maks for being so patient with me, so helpful, and thanks to the judges because their critiques really helped me." Yes, the judges laughed.
At their departure, there is a sense that a lot of humor and spontaneity left with them, but the elimination was certainly not the first thing on the show, not by a long shot. Soon after the start of the program, Shawn Johnson and Derek Hough, and Melissa Rycroft and Tony Dovolani -- the top-scoring couples after the cumulative scores -- were standing on the stage, waiting to see if they would be dancing in the semi-finals next week. No worries there, both couples were safe. Others safe were Kelly Monaco and Val Chmerkovskiy, who were facing the music with Kirstie and Maks.
However, we all needed to wait until the last minutes of the show to find out who else was heading home. It was down to the three guy celebrities and their partners -- Emmitt Smith and Cheryl Burke, Gilles Marini and Peta Murgatroyd, and Apolo Anton Ohno and Karina Smirnoff -- and they stood side-by-side at the top of the stairs, waiting for the news. After Emmitt and Cheryl were declared safe, head judge Len Goodman said, "I don't want either of these people to go." But the dreaded music thumped through the pregnant pause, and then Gilles and Peta were outta there.
Asked by co-host Brooke Burke-Charvet if he expected it, Gilles said, "I felt it because of the cumulative scores of the last two weeks, a bit iffy. I had the chance to do it twice, tried my very best. Peta was an angel out there, teaching me amazing things. It was an incredible experience. I want to thank my wife, it's been quite a challenge for the family, without her I'm really nothing."
While Kirstie and Maks were in the bottom more often than not, Gilles and Peta were at the top before slipping to the middle recently. At the start of the season, it looked like he and Peta would be heading to the finals, but it was not to be.
The hourlong program was packed from start to finish, opening with Kylie Minogue singing "Locomotion" in a dress so short that the skimpy costumes of the women pro dancers were actually longer. After Kym Johnson, Tristan MacManus and members of the DWTS Troupe shook their booties and hoofed it up, Tom remarked, "Now THAT'S how to start a show!"
There was the part where everyone ponders how sad it would be to go home. "This is the hardest part of the season. They all have become friends," Emmitt told Brooke, who looked terrific in slinky silver gown. Then Macy's "Stars of Dance" followed close behind, with the cast of Broadway's "Newsies," singing and dancing up a storm while the celebs and partners wondered and worried backstage. Finally, singer Ne-Yo belted out his latest hit as dancers stomped around on top of large blocks and audience members filled the dance floor.
Next week, the dancers will be first performing to songs from Michael Jackson's "Bad" album. In a moment of irony, Gilles said how excited he was to dance to Jackson's music. Then, in what has become routine, the couples picked the themes and dance styles for each other for next week. Tom joked about what the producers were smoking when they made up the list, and he may have been onto something. Anyway, the selections were:
"Caveman" Hustle -- Melissa and Tony, assigned by Kelly and Val
"Knight Rider" Banghra -- Shawn and Derek, assigned by Emmitt and Cheryl
"Big Top" Jazz -- Apolo and Karina, assigned by Gilles and Peta before being eliminated
"Espionage" Lindy hop -- Emmitt and Cheryl, assigned by Shawn and Derek
"Surfer" Flamenco -- Kelly and Val, assigned by Melissa and Tony
There will be no "Mad Monk" Merengue, since that was the dance Gilles and Peta would have done, darn. For the uninformed, Tom said that "banghra" is an Indian folk dance.
Just before the final results were revealed, Anna Trebunskaya, Val and two principal dancers from the New York City Ballet -- Tyler Peck and Robert Fairchild -- performed a piece that was a beautiful blend of ballroom and ballet. It was amazing that Val didn't have a huge grin of relief on his face during the performance.
So now we are down to five semi-finalists, and two more couples will be eliminated next week to reach the requisite trio for the finals. Who will be next to go? It all depends on the size of their fanbases, how popular they are ... oh, yeah, how well they dance Monday night. What is your best guess?